Roundtable Discussion: how tech can combat illegal wildlife crime

In October, the UK government is to host an international conference on illegal wildlife trade. A key theme will be the role of technology in combatting this £17bn trade. techUK will be holding a roundtable on 20 June with the FCO to discuss how the UK tech sector can support international efforts. techUK has already met with the Foreign Secretary to discuss initial ideas and we are looking forward to seeing jhow the sector can best work together.

Background:

Second to habitat loss, the illegal trade of wildlife is considered the biggest threat to many endangered species. Many species are now being pushed ever closer to extinction to satisfy huge demand for such things as medicines, collectables, pets and clothing. The illegal wildlife trade not only endangers some of our most iconic species of wildlife, but is a serious organised crime and damages the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities. Some examples of illegal wildlife trade are well known, such as poaching of elephants for ivory and tigers for their skins and bones. However, countless other species are similarly overexploited, from marine turtles, butterflies and pangolins to timber trees and flowers.

By its very nature, it is almost impossible to obtain reliable figures for the value of illegal wildlife trade. Experts at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, estimate that it runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. Harnessing technology to combat this trade is one of the key themes up for discussion at the conference on 10-11 October. techUK is working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Royal Society to showcase the potential of the UK tech sector in supporting NGOs, enforcement and border authorities addressing this growing challenge.

Agenda:

  • 10:00 - 10:10 Welcome and introductions.
  • 10:10 - 10:15: Outline on the IWT summit in October, what FCO wants to achieve and summary of roundtable with Foreign Secretary.
  • 10:15 -10:25 Introduce the 5 challenges and key discussion points.
  • 10:25 - 11:25 Break into 2 groups to discussion on the 5 challenges that the tech sector can collaborate on.
  • 11:25 – 11:40 Whole group discussion on the 5 challenges.
  • 11:40 - 11:55 Structure and role of techUK and wider sector and options for collaboration.
  • 11:50 - 12:00 Agree next steps.

The Five Challenges:

1 Education and training to build capacity around tools.

  • Insufficient capacity, resources and training aids for rollout and sector needs to better support NGOs, law enforcement and Governments.
  • How can we build a community of practice around key tools to aid education, training of infield capacity and collaboration to achieve wide scale adoption?
  • Where can the sector help?

2 Sustained access to secure infrastructure and collaborative information networks, including cloud  computing, Machine Learning tools, Satellites access.

  • Access to platforms when funding expires.
  • Lack of expertise and analytical capability on the front line and in NGOs.
  • Poor ICT and connectivity.
  • Opening up opportunities without experts and ensure architectures are in place
  • Unlocking existing APIs and platforms and making people aware of their capabilities.

3 Open data and shared databases.

  • To analyse data sets and detect illegal activity, better collection, storage and sharing of data as well as accessible, secure, curated databases are required.
  • How to enable conservationists and law enforcement to collectively submit and collaborate on data.

4 Affordability

  • Budgets tend to be small and time-limited, so NGOs and Governments can’t get locked in to long term costs they can’t maintain.
  • Costs of equipment, services, infrastructure and satellite data are high and ongoing running costs become prohibitive.
  • How can tech provide affordable/free equipment, services, expertise and network infrastructure?

5 Accelerating ‘fit for purpose’ innovation

  • Tools are often not fully configured for contexts they are deployed.
  • More capacity and support is needed  to make available tech fit for purpose and ready.
  • An effective technology accelerator that can help shape tools and make them fit for purpose?
  • Creating architectures and blueprints for key tools so engineers can easily engage in a small piece of development to advance the whole?
  • How to build more capacity to direct appropriate development?

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